For many of us, a show like Glee carries what we consider not faults or bad taste, but biblical-scale omens: a massive, nearly hysterical suburban teen following; young heartthrobs with crystal-clear, Simon-certified voices singing top 40 hits; and perhaps the most unsettling of all, kids as young as eight dressing up in the characters’ high school uniforms, singing and dancing not unlike the chanting, convulsing, brainwashed young Evangelical converts from Jesus Camp.
Ask many of us if we’ve actually seen the show, however, and you’ll likely be answered, “Well… of course not, but—”
Ah-a-a-a-ah! Not another word of that pompous, elitist rambling, you old Ignatius J. Sit down for a viewing of Kevin Tancharoen’s gracefully titled Glee the 3D Concert Movie and you’ll conclude that in terms of what the young’uns are watching these days, Glee is the funny, charming kid in the wheelchair running for class president against The Situation, who A) should clearly be out of high school by now and B) is giving out “Vote For Me!” pins in the form of whip-its with “FUCK YOU” written on the canister.
That being said, Glee 3D is the ultimate test of your cynicism.
The show itself is undeniably noble. Centered on a motley high school glee club, Glee is most admired for encouraging outcast kids to be unafraid among their “normal” peers, and for those normals to get over their prissy little insecurities and accept people for who they are. In Glee 3D the real stories of three high schoolers for whom the show served as a strong shoulder--a gay kid, a girl with Aspergers, and a midget cheerleader--are rather seamlessly intercut with the concert and filmed with the compassion and intelligence that MTVs True Life series could seriously take notes on.
But while Glee 3D’s 90-minute run may not sound long, when the same pure-as-snow message is dragged on and on, getting mushier as the film unfolds, with a grand finale of armies of fans in confessional t-shirts (e.g. “Born This Way”) smiling and singing along arm-in-arm to a tender performance of Jason Mraz number “Lucky I’m in Love With My Best Friend,” you might find yourself asking the ecstatic preteen girl in the back brace next to you to cut your fucking head off.
But why? A movie as genuine and big-hearted as Glee 3D ought to inspire peace of mind, not torturous dread. Then again, with age it becomes difficult to shake off the larger, darker side of the world—especially when you’re starting to get comfortable in it. Some might find it wise, then, to avoid Glee 3D’s generous yet sometimes blinding rays of sunshine.
The sentimentality is occasionally and thankfully undercut by backstage interviews with Glee’s young actors and actresses, who never break their bright, cocky, generally funny character roles throughout the concert.
Ironically the most likable character is the attractive, bitchy cheerleader Quinn, played by Dianna Agron, who conjures a younger version of Kirsten Wiig in her delightful, perfectly subdued sass. The glee club’s scrappy, golden-voiced paraplegic Artie, who flies across the concert stage in his wheelchair like the reckless brutes from Murderball, is played by Kevin McHale, whose similar yet more harmless bombast is exemplary of the show’s message: a kid with a marginalized physical or biological trait doesn’t need to have a marginalized personality to suit.
Like the real-life “Furries” who bravely wear the fake tails of their favorite animal cartoon characters to school (not making this up), I will fight my own embarrassment to admit that the Glee concert itself can be thrilling—for a while.
You may typically pull out your razor blades at songs like “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Fat Bottomed Girls,” but the Glee kids are such genuine, natural, fiery performers, and the live footage has such clean and intuitive editing that it’s honestly hard to keep the word “awesome” from sneaking its way into your head.
And the 3D! I was shocked to find that this film made better use of the usually infuriating technology than any other film I have seen up to this point. I can only assume 3D producer Jeff Zachary is responsible for the remarkable use of perspective. The close-ups of singers in action are larger than life; you can savor their every meticulously crafted facial expression while making out each word somebody’s dad is covertly mouthing from the dark pit a few yards away.
The overall production is so rich and polished you forget you’re watching a live concert, which is also one of the film’s downsides.
Tancharoen loses the cathartic chaos of a show that’s brimming with it. Glee 3D’s glaring antithesis would be the Beastie Boys film Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!, where 50 patrons of their 2004 Madison Square Garden show were given handheld cameras and told not to stop shooting all night. The resultant footage is predictably shaky and amateurish, with even occasional cuts to fans headed to the bathroom, but even then the intensity of their excitement comes through in the footage, as well as in the appropriately jarring editing. Compared to that film, Glee 3D resembles a really, really good special ensemble episode of American Idol. The key distinction, however, is that in Tancharoen’s film, it’s the losers who discover fortune. That’s a victory in my book.